This is a wondrous disc. Yevgeny Sudbin has not been alone in championing the piano music of Nikolay Medtner: in recent times Marc-André Hamelin, Steven Osborne and Hamish Milne have all brought their special insights into a composer who can perhaps on occasion seem problematic and somehow remote. Sudbin, however, seems to have an exceptional affinity with Medtner’s language. He brings both his heart and his head into play when performing these pieces. His head tackles and illuminates textures and harmonies that might seem opaque and knotty on a first study of the scores; his heart is then harnessed to convey the extraordinary sensibility, passion and thoroughly individual cast of melody that courses through the music. As usual with Sudbin’s series of BIS discs, he also writes his own booklet-notes in a lucid way that testifies both to his enthusiasm and to his understanding.
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli's classic recordings of the Ravel G major and Rachmaninov G minor concertos have never been out of the catalog since they first appeared more than 40 years ago. Surface and style are one in this music, and the Italian pianist remains unsurpassed for his icy precision and micro-detailing. He brings pinpointed elan to Rachmaninov's sizzling cross-rhythms in the Fourth Concerto's Allegro Vivace movement, as well as laser-like concentration to the tartly lush Largo. Few have matched Michelangeli's nuance and color in the Ravel concerto, and his seamless dispatch of Ravel's "singing sword" effect in the opening movement belies the notion that you can't bend notes on a piano.
The Dutch cellist Harriet Krijgh and Russian pianist Magda Amara present a program of Rachmaninov pieces that sensitively reflect and capture his genius with this release. Along with well known Rachmaninov repertoire, the CD also includes Sonata for cello and piano op.19 which evolved after a lengthy period of depression and compositional despair catalyzed by the critical failure of his Symphony Nr. 1 and requiring therapeutic treatments to end. Some have said that after emerging from this creative black hole, Rachmaninovs humility and compassion produced works that were richer than was the case previously. This release makes a convincing argument that this was indeed the case.
Mats Lidström is that rare thing, an original musician. The sheer mercurial energy which drives his performances can be both engaging and disturbing, but there is always a searching intelligence at work. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra lost much when its compelling, if unpredictable, lead cellist departed. These two concertos show him at his persuasive best, bringing lesser known works to life. Kabalevsky’s 1964 Concerto stretches and yawns with slow pizzicato before springing into urgent life. Sub-Shostakovich in its motifs and tonality, it is nevertheless well-constructed and uses the saxophone to great effect. In both Allegro movements Lidström achieves a lightning speed and attack and, though Raphael Wallfisch’s recording on Nimbus has a more solid beauty of tone, the Swede’s nervous anticipation makes up for the thinner sound of his Grancino cello. Khachaturian’s 1946 Concerto would make a wonderful soundtrack to a cinematic faux-Oriental extravaganza, with its twisting major and minor intervals, and almost sleazy chromaticism. Lidström really knows how to swing, and makes the most of the memorable melodies.
In celebration of their twentieth anniversary, this essential release from Praga focuses on the artistry of the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter. In an all-Rachmaninov program, Richter is heard in the first two Piano Concertos accompanied by the great conductor Kurt Sanderling in live performances recorded in the 50s - well before he began touring internationally. Praga's hybrid SACD pairs remastered monophonic recordings of the concertos with four of Richter's favorite Preludes recorded in stereo during his first tour of North America in 1960. Praga has employed the best of today's cutting-edge restoration techniques to present these important historical recordings in all their original glory.